Daily D – Matthew 15:16
“Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. (New International Version)
“Are you still without understanding?” (English Standard Version)
“Do you still lack understanding?” he asked. (Christian Standard Bible)
“Don’t you understand yet?” Jesus asked. (New Living Translation)
Jesus replied, “You, too? Are you being willfully stupid?” (The Message)
Jesus asked a lot of questions. This one had to come in like a punch in the nose.
Peter asked for an explanation of what Jesus had said to some Pharisees and teachers of the law (verses 1-14). Jesus responded to Peter’s request with a question. Our English translations obscure the meaning a bit. The “you” in Jesus’ question is plural. Peter was not the only dullard here. I’m not sure that was much relief to Old Saint Pete.
True confession: My own mind was wandering a bit as I read these verses this morning. The coffee had not yet kicked in. Jesus’ question roused me to full alertness. It was as if he had directed his question to me. Just like Peter and the Boys, I kept silent and paid attention. Re-reading a few verses helped me re-engage with the conversation on the page instead of the one in my head.
Let’s be honest with one another. Sometimes paying attention is hard. Sitting in a meeting last week, Yours Truly found himself fighting off sleep in a room full of friends. Standing and stirring about helped. Going to bed early that night helped even more.
Sometimes paying attention is hard because we attempt to divide our attention without consequence. This never really works, does it? Sometimes something more interesting is happening somewhere else and we give preference to that place rather than the place where we are.
Jesus said some things requiring more than a casual reflection. Sometimes what he said leaves us wanting more information. A few more details would be helpful. If we are going to learn to think like Jesus, to develop the mind of Christ, we need to pay attention to what Jesus said, what prompted what Jesus said, and what happened after what Jesus said.
In this case, the religious leaders Jesus was engaged with wondered why Jesus did not engage in their traditions like ritual hand washing. Their “hand washing” involved a trickle down each arm, not warm water, soap, and hand sanitizer. It was all show and no benefit.
Jesus wasn’t that religious. He declared their traditions bankrupt and self-serving. He said they were more interested in their artificial rules than in God’s truth.
Peter and his pals were concerned Jesus hurt the feelings of those religious leaders. Jesus called them “blind guides,” (verse 14). This is when Peter spoke up for everyone and asked for an explanation. This is when Jesus asks if they were really that dull. This is what leads to the heart of the matter in verses 16-20.
We all have heart problems, Jesus said. What we cherish and what we tolerate in our hearts is what has the power to defile us when those cherished thoughts involve self-gratifying sin. A couple of trickles down the forearms and onto the fingers cannot wash away the evil we allow to reside within.
What is Jesus saying to you today?
What prompted him to say this to you?
What are you going to do about it?
When we think like Jesus, when we carry out the garbage bagged up in our hearts, when we move from ritual to simple obedience, life becomes brighter and better.
Jesus’ questions are easier to answer when we loosen our grip on those cherished thoughts and behaviors that build barriers between us and God and us and others.
I will remove from my heart everything that dulls my perception of God’s truth and the best next steps this makes possible and necessary.
Our Father, King David’s prayer in Psalm 139:23, 24 is mine as well today: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Please deliver me from a dull mind. Amen.
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1 Corinthians 10:23, 24 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.
1 Corinthians 6:11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
1 Thessalonians 1:6, 7 You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.